06/21/14 4:00pm
06/21/2014 4:00 PM
County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) presenting Lori Luscher and Greta Schiller with proclamations thanking them for their work removing the invasive plant phragmites from Marion Lake. (Credit: Carrie Miller Photo)

County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) presenting Greta Schiller (left) and Lori Luscher with proclamations thanking them for their work removing the invasive plant phragmites from Marion Lake. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Community awareness and promoting activism were the themes of the evening at the North Fork Environmental Council’s annual environmental awards ceremony Thursday, where the nonprofit thanked several groups for their contributions to the local environment.

(more…)

05/29/14 8:00am
05/29/2014 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The view from Route 105 bridge at Indian Island golf course as the Peconic River leads into the Bay.

The view from Route 105 bridge at Indian Island golf course as the Peconic River leads into the Bay. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

New construction and any big renovation projects on Long Island would need to incorporate modern waste treatment systems to better filter nitrogen and keep it from reaching ground and surface waters.

Registered pesticides that appear in groundwater in “multiple clusters” would be “prohibit[ed] for use.”

And, starting in 2017, no one would be allowed to repair cesspools in certain “priority areas” of Nassau or Suffolk counties. Those people would instead have to install denitrification systems.  (more…)

02/17/14 1:00pm
02/17/2014 1:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The view from Route 105 bridge at Indian Island golf course as the Peconic River leads into the Bay.

The view from Route 105 bridge at Indian Island golf course as the Peconic River leads into the Bay. (Barbaraellen Koch Photo)

Protecting our surface and ground waters is L.I.’s public issue number one. The L.I. Clean Water Partnership has done a great job in increasing public and political awareness. But we must avoid the trap of oversimplifying both the problem and the solutions.  (more…)

05/19/13 11:00am
05/19/2013 11:00 AM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Joyce Conklin and Jim Miller(right) accept an award from the North Fork Environmental Council as Senator Ken LaValle praises the work of Mr. Miller and Ms. Conklin’s late husband, Bob.

The late Bob Conklin of Flanders and Jim Miller of Southold were honored as “Environmental Champions” by the North Fork Environmental Council on Thursday for their work establishing a fish passage at Grangebel Park.

The rock passage allows alewives and other fish to migrate from fresh to salt water, where they become food for other larger species like fluke, weakfish and striped bass.

Also honored was Kevin McAllister, the Peconic Baykeeper for the past 15 years, who received the “Richard Noncarrow Environmentalist of the Year” award.

The awards were handed out at the Suffolk Community College culinary school in downtown Riverhead.

The Peconic River, like many rivers in the late 1800s and early 1900s, was dammed up in spots to provide power for mills and other uses, cutting off the alewives’ migratory routes, which spawn in fresh water and migrate to salt water.

Mr. Conklin, a science teacher at Riverhead High School, initially would take his students down to the river to carry the alewives over the dam using nets.

But since this solution could only help a limited number of fish, Mr. Conklin in 2000 sought out the help of Mr. Miller, an environmental engineer and the founder of Miller Environmental in Calverton.

Mr. Miller helped set up an Alaskan Steep Pass, which was commonly called a fish ladder, and which helped the fish migrate over the dam from fresh water to salt water and back. But the fish ladder was only a temporary structure.

After a few years, they embarked on a plans to establish a permanent fish passage system at the Grangebel dam.

That system, which was aided by state and federal grants obtained by Riverhead Town, was completed in early 2011, just months after Mr. Conklin died in December 2010.

An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 alewives pass through the rock passageways, officials says. Eels also use the passageway.

The efforts of Mr. Conklin and others were featured on an episode of the television show, Lunkerville, in 2012, and that segment was shown Thursday night.

“It has reached a magnitude beyond our belief,” Mr. Miller said in the video. “We had fantasized that maybe some tens of thousand of fish could possibly migrate. We are now of the belief that it’s hundreds of thousands.  As they migrate out into the bay, they become primary foraging fish for the striped bass, the fluke and the weakfish, and those fish migrate out into the ocean, and the sharks and tuna will feed off the blue fish.

“It could actually impact the entire fisheries on the east coast of the United States.”

Mr. Conklin’s award was presented posthumously to his wife Joyce. She and Mr. Miller also were given proclamations by a number of elected officials.

Mr. Miller said Tim Griffing and Byron Young also should be recognized for their efforts in creating the fish passage. George Bartunek, who worked on the fish passage, said this was what Mr. Conklin loved to do.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister accepts an award from the North Fork Environmental Council at a reception in downtown Riverhead Thursday.

Mr. McAllister works for a private non-profit environmental organization called Peconic BayKeeper.

“He’s a man who has made a dramatic impact on our waterways,” said State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who said Mr. McAllister has highlighted the damage done to waterways by cesspools, and helped bring that issue to the forefront.

“The Peconic Bay is a resource people believed was infinite and no matter what we did to it, it would be still be there,” said South Fork state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor). “We’ve found out now that is not the case.”

NFEC president Bill Toedter said Mr. McAllister has highlighted the fact that “what we do on land determines what happens with our waters.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

04/09/13 12:00pm
04/09/2013 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Baykeeper Kevin McAllister.

The North Fork Environmental Council will honor baykeeper Kevin McAllister as its environmentalist of the year during an awards ceremony in Riverhead next month.

The organization will give Mr. McAllister, who for 15 years has advocated for the health of the Peconic estuary system and its wildlife, with its Richard Noncarrow Environmentalist of the Year award on Thursday, May 16 at the Suffolk County Community College’s Culinary Arts Center in downtown Riverhead.

The NFEC says Mr. McAllister has worked over the past four years to show the connection between the health of the North Fork’s groundwater supplies and the health of its coastal waters.

“Kevin wears his passion on his sleeve, but it’s his work ethic, his dedication to doing what is right and his ability to challenge us to be better stewards of our lands and waters, of our future, which makes him stand head and shoulders above the rest,” Bill Toedter, NFEC president, said in a press release.

The organization will also name the late Bob Conklin, a former Riverhead science teacher, and Jim Miller, the founder of Miller Environmental, its Environmental Champions. Both were instrumental in the installation of a fish ladder allowing alewives, a herring-like fish, to return each year to their spawning grounds long blocked by the dam in Grangebel Park in Riverhead.

Information is available by calling 298-8880 or at nfec1.org.

tkelly@timesreview.com

11/16/12 3:30pm
11/16/2012 3:30 PM
Calverton, Riverhead, Splish Splash

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | A lawsuit settlement would pave the way for a mixed-use development on this Route 25 and Manor Road land near Splish Splash in Calverton.

The Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and the Greater Calverton Civic Association have taken the position that the Riverhead Town Board should not agree to a proposed settlement with Calverton Manor, LLC that would result in reverting to zoning that contradicts recommendations of Riverhead’s 2003 master plan.

The master plan recommends the adoption of “rural corridor (RLC)” zoning along Route 25 east of Fresh Pond Avenue that would “reduce future expectations of development and market potential for retail and service uses along the [Route 25] corridor.”

RLC zoning that was subsequently adopted by the Riverhead Town Board provides for a “limited range of roadside shops and services that are compatible with the agricultural and rural setting along major arterial roads, such as … Route 25.” The proposed stipulation for settlement with Calverton Manor, LLC provides for reverting to prior Business Center (BC) zoning, which provides for development of much greater density and intensity than what is recommended in the town’s master plan.

The proposed settlement would allow for a footprint of up to 100,000 square feet for buildings and up to 40 “dwellings units.”

The North Fork Environmental Council supports the position taken by the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and the Calverton Civic Association. It is the opinion of the NFEC that an agreement by the Riverhead Town Board to the proposed stipulation would significantly alter the rural character of the Route 25 corridor in Calverton and would undermine the integrity of the town’s master plan and the zoning that was subsequently adopted to conform with the master plan.

It is the position of Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter that the current RLC zoning is too restrictive and that the type of development proposed by Calverton Manor, LLC will increase the town’s tax base.

Mr. Walter is also of the opinion that if the town does not agree to the proposed settlement that the entire comprehensive master plan could be in jeopardy and may require a complete update. The North Fork Environmental Council disagrees.

Increasing the tax base in this manner also brings a great deal of cost in terms of supporting infrastructure and services — police, fire, etc. Such development in the name of increasing the tax base has been proved to increase property owners’ tax burdens, not decrease them, in every town to the west. In addition, such a change in zoning goes against both the word and the spirit of the master plan. It’s not perfect but its protections have well served the people of Riverhead. Any significant changes should not be undertaken without exhaustive research and discussion among all parties.

Because Mr. Walter has accepted significant amounts of campaign contributions from the principals of the Calverton Manor proposal, the NFEC recommends that, in order for the Riverhead Town Board to reach an objective and unbiased decision with respect to this matter, Mr. Walter should remove himself from any further deliberation or decision of the proposed settlement. Furthermore, the Riverhead Town Board should request from the town attorney’s office relevant case law that would help them reach a fair and deliberate decision.

Mr. Toedter is president of the North Fork Environmental Council, a Mattituck-based environmental advocacy group.

05/08/12 7:00am
05/08/2012 7:00 AM

Former Riverhead Councilwoman Barbara Blass, preservation advocate Richard Wines and local green activist Lillian Ball are this year’s recipients of environmental awards given by the North Fork Environmental Council.

The NFEC announced Friday that Ms. Blass will receive the organization’s Richard Noncarrow Environmentalist of the Year honors for her long-standing efforts to preserve the environment.

“Trying to look ahead, her work on Riverhead’s Master Plan and open space preservation are testaments to someone who cared, worked hard and got things done,” NFEC stated in announcing the awards. “But after leaving office, the caring, concern and dedication to doing what’s right didn’t end. To this day, Barbara can be found attending numerous meetings in and around the North Fork, trying to make sure that she is doing all she can do to protect the people and the places she so loves.”

Mr. Wines and Ms. Ball are this year’s Environmental Hero Award recipients.

The group credits Mr. Wines, who currently serves on the Riverhead Landmarks Preservation Commission, for successfully preserving many historically significant structures, including parts of the Hallockville Museum Farm and the Jamesport Meeting House. Mr. Wines is also involved with a grassroots efforts to keep Sound Avenue rural.

Ms. Ball has been recognized for her vision and drive as an environmental artist and artist. In 2009, Ms. Ball presented a plan called “WaterwashTM” — a combination of permeable pavement, vegetative swale and informational signs — to reduce stormwater runoff at Mattituck Inlet.

The awards ceremony is June 2 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Hallockville Museum in Riverhead. Tickets are $40 each, $70 per couple. Call 298-8880.

jennifer@timesreview.com

08/03/11 11:34am
08/03/2011 11:34 AM

When it came to opposing a proposed shopping center on the corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue, members of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in Reeves Park stood side by side with members of townwide environmental and civic groups like the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and the North Fork Environmental Council.

But on the subject of whether Rich Vlacci’s R&K Precision Autoworks on Sound Avenue should be granted a special permit to double the size of that business, they broke ranks during a Town Board public hearing Tuesday.

Residents Mike Foley and Dorothy O’Haire, both vocal opponents of developer Kenn Barra’s proposed shopping center, both of whom said they were founding members of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association, urged the Town Board to grant a special permit to R&K.

Mr. Foley, who is also an RNPC member, said he’s gone to R&K about a dozen times for car repairs over the years.

“Each time, I’ve gotten an honest and fair price and excellent work,” he said. “Everyone in Reeves Park will tell you, he’s always there for the community.”

He said Mr. Vlacci always cleans up his shop area at the end of the day and complies with town codes.

Mr. Foley said that when environmental groups “don’t make exceptions for people who do the right thing, then we lose credibility as groups.”

“If ever there were a site plan that should be approved, it’s this one,” Ms. O’Haire said. The proposed expansion looks more residential and fits in better with the area than what’s there now, she said.

Sound Park Heights Civic Association president Eric Biegler said the association supports Mr. Vlacci’s proposed expansion.
Former councilman George Bartunek, who is an NFEC vice president, said R&K is seeking to expand a use that doesn’t comply with its zoning.

“Over the years, nonconforming uses should lapse,” he said. “A 100 percent expansion of a nonconforming use is a terrible precedent.”

Dominique Mendez of RNPC said the fact that Mr. Vlacci does good work and is a nice man “doesn’t change the fact that he’s asking for a 100 percent expansion of a nonconforming use on Sound Avenue.” She said an expansion that big is too big, and that her group seeks to protect Sound Avenue against over-commercialization.

Jim DeLuca, a representative for Mr. Vlacci, said the building has been used commercially since 1954 and has been owned by R&K since 1986.

He said Mr. Vlacci’s reputation for restoring cars is such that the television show “Pawn Stars” on Friday filmed an episode featuring his work.

Mr. Vlacci said he’s “sworn to secrecy” about the content of the show until it airs.

tgannon@timesreview.com